Guyana celebrated its first International Youth Day with a rally and march, as well as the launch of a United Nations campaign to raise awareness about the earth’s growing population. Mark Ross, 27, a Commonwealth Correspondent and one of the organisers of the festivities, reports.
August 12 every year is observed around the world as International Youth Day.
The day was first designated on 17 December 1999, when the United Nations General Assembly endorsed resolution 54/120. This followed a recommendation in Lisbon the previous year by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth.
This year’s International Youth Day represented the culmination of the International Year of Youth – designated by the United Nations to comprise the 12 month period between IYD 2010 and IYD 2011 – as well as the 25th anniversary of the first International Year of Youth.
As such, “Change Our World” was chosen as the theme for IYD 2011 as it not only expresses the level of impact that young people strive to achieve, but also reflects the notion of a global community that is a core principle of the United Nations.
I am one of the founders of the Global Youth Movement-Guyana, a national and sub-regional youth advisor to the United Nations Population Fund and a national UNV volunteer working under the United Nations Development Programme. It was through the Global Youth Movement-Guyana, beginning in February, that I helped to launch this year’s celebration.
It was the first time in Guyana that International Youth Day was celebrated and was organised in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund as its key partner, as well as government partners and non-governmental organisations, as well as youths.
It resulted in the attendance of approximately seven hundred youths from most of the regions of Guyana. A youth rally and march began at 10am, starting at the Ministry of Youth and ending at the Carifesta Sports Complex.
The rally and march was followed by an opening ceremony, cultural presentations, launch of the United Nations ‘7billion’ campaign, the release of 700 balloons to mark the launch and an open mike.
The march allowed young people to interact with each other while walking and dancing to music and displaying their various banners calling for “access to financial services”, “access to education”, and “access to health services”.
The Minister of Youth, Dr Frank Anthony, outlined in his speech the five thematic areas through which his ministry works with young people, and explained the importance of each while ensuring that the youth are leaders for today and the future.
He noted that his administration does not see young people as tomorrow’s leaders but rather leaders of today and made a call to young people to access the ministry’s youth leadership, among others.
The resident coordinator of the United Nations in Guyana, Dr Lystra Fletcher-Paul,made brief remarks on the importance of youth in the development of Guyana and the world.
Representing young people, Mr Zaman Shaw explained that while many things are done to assist youths, political leaders should be providing employment opportunities for young people. This he explained would help empower each of them.
Ms Patrice Lafleur, assistant representative for UNFPA’s sub-regional office for Guyana and the Caribbean, in launching the ‘7billion’ campaign, explained to the gathering that the UN has forecasted that the world by the end of 2011 will reach a global population of 7 billion.
With this increase in population comes numerous challenges, many of which we are already seeing. She called on leaders to help to galvanise support for programmes that target young people as they hold the key to the development of Guyana.
The open mike was considered as the one of the best features of the day as it provided opportunities for young people in attendance to express themselves. This they did through music, poetry, dance and drama. This activity truly lived up to the International Year of Youth slogan “Our Year, Our Voice”.
It was suggested that this particular form of ‘edutainment’ be used in all spaces where young people meet, as youths are not interested in speeches but rather given a chance to express themselves in the form they know best: art.
Dignitaries present, including the Minister of Youth and other senior officials, were astonished as the youth released the 700 colorful balloons, decorating the sky as they flew over the capital city.
Cultural presentations were made by the UNFPA Youth Advisory Group in the form of a poem which highlighted the issues addressed by each Millennium Development Goal as well as each of the different UN agencies supporting the government in their achievement. All the other performances by youths during the opening ceremony, as well as during the open mike, were of a very high standard. There was evidently a high level of respect among those present.
The United Nations Secretary-General, in his message for International Youth Day 2011, called on the international community to “continue to work together to expand the horizons of opportunity for these young women and men and answer their legitimate demands for dignity, development and decent work.
“Failing to invest in our youth is a false economy. Investments in young people will pay great dividends in a better future for all,” he said.
“The eldest of forty seven national UNV volunteers serving the United Nations Development Programme, I am also reading for a degree in communication studies. My interests are in youth development and governance, but most importantly I have a love for developing health materials for youth and writing newsletters and magazines.
“My hobbies include reading, research and entertaining friends. My future ambitions are to become president of my country and one day head a UN mission to an African country.”
Read another of my articles here: “It’s almost the end of the International Year of Youth 2010-2011, a year which was designated by the United Nations General Assembly in Resolution A/RES/64/134 under the theme ‘Dialogue and Mutual Understanding’…”
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/
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